Thai FA investigated, face possible disbandment

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters

Posted at Sep 14 2012 06:01 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2012 02:01 AM

BANGKOK - Thailand's Football Association could be forced to disband following allegations of corruption, a government spokesperson investigating the association said on Friday.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) is under investigation by a house corruption committee for tax-evasion and for setting up the Thai Premier League as a profit-making arm of the group, said Supachai Chaisamut, a spokesperson for a house anti-corruption committee investigating the group.

Worawi Makudi, the FAT's president and a FIFA executive member since 1997, appeared before the committee on Thursday to give his explanations on financial transactions currently under investigation by the panel.

"If FAT is found to have deliberately set up Thai Premier League for profit-making purposes the Thai Revenue Department will follow up the case. The FAT will then have a duty to withdraw the name of the football association, disband and set-up again," Supachai Chaisamut, spokesperson for the House committee on corruption, told Reuters.

Worawi said he was in discussion with his lawyers and would respond to the allegations at a news conference next week.

This is not the first time the FAT president and FIFA executive committee member has been accused of corruption.

In 2011, FIFA launched a formal investigation against Worawi after he was accused of spending $860,000 in football development grants for projects on land he personally owns. Soccer's world governing body eventually cleared him of any wrong doing.

In the latest accusations to hit the FAT president, Worawi and Thailand's football association are being investigated for setting up the Thai Premier League company to generate profits and authorizing Siam Sports Syndicate Pcl, a sports publishing company, to manage commercial benefits.

Under Thai civil law, the FAT is barred from seeking profits.

The FAT president was asked to submit documents showing the minutes of meetings held by the FAT that dealt with Thai Premier League Company, Siam Sports Syndicate and to produce balance sheets dating back five years for both companies by next week.

The issue is fast dividing Thai soccer fans who have taken sides in the dispute with some claiming personal grudges and allegiances are influencing the investigation.

"Some people on this committee want this to become a political issue but that is not what I want and that is not aim of this investigation," said Prompong Nopparit, vice chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

Thailand's premier league underwent a massive revamp three years ago following a marketing blitz that brought in dozens of corporate sponsors and provided revenue for clubs to invest in foreign players and coaches.

At a packed news conference in Bangkok earlier this month former England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, was named the new technical director of Thai Premier League club BEC Tero Sasana.

His appointment will be a much-needed boost to the Thai league as it struggles to make its mark against other teams in regional competitions. (Additional Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Patrick Johnston)